Clusters of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) have been proposed as candidates for evaporating very small grains, which are thought to be precursors of free-flying PAHs. Evaporation rates have been calculated so far only for species containing up to a few 100 C atoms, whereas interstellar PAH clusters could contain up to ~1000 C atoms. We present a method that generalises the calculation of the statistical evaporation rate of large PAH clusters and provides rates for species containing up to ~1000 C-atoms. The evaporation of non-rotating neutral homo-molecular PAH clusters containing up to 12 molecules from a family of highly symmetric compact PAHs is studied. Statistical calculations were performed and completed with molecular dynamics simulations at high internal energies to provide absolute values for the evaporation rate and distributions of kinetic energy released. The calculations used explicit atom-atom Lennard-Jones potentials in the rigid molecule approximation. A new method is proposed to take both inter- and intra-molecular vibrations into account. Without any parameter adjustment, the calculated evaporation rates agree well with available experimental data. We find that the non-rotation assumption has a limited impact on the evaporation rates. The photostability of PAH clusters increases dramatically with the size of molecules in the clusters, and to a lesser extent with the number of molecules in the clusters. For values of the UV radiation field that are typical of the regions where evaporating very small grains are observed, the smallest clusters in this study (~50 C-atoms) are found to be quickly photo-evaporated, whereas the largest clusters (~1000 C-atoms) are photostable. Our results support the idea that large PAH clusters are good candidates for evaporating very small grains.
J. Montillaud and C. Joblin
Wed, 9 Apr 14